And the winners are The First Man booker winner and our shadow winner as well

 

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Well It has just been announced that the winner of the first year of the New Man booker international prize is

The Vegetarian by Han Kang Translator I’m so pleased this won as it is a hugely popular book , If not with my self as much as some of my fellow jurors , but it was the clear winner in the shadow Jury.I have meet Deborah and seen her start her publishing house via twitter it is a great day for nritish translation and translators.

Earlier today we announced our shadow winner

The vegetarian by Han Kang Translator Deborah Smith

, as I was busy I decide to combine my post. But I will point you in the way of a post from the weekend by my fellow chair of the Shadow Jury on the years we have both shadow the prize . I enjoyed doing the shadow jury again. I look back as this year Lisa help put together a list of combined reviews . AGain we have reviewed every book at least three times like in our other years. Yhis year saw a shot out between our winner Vegetarian and Death by water by Kenzaburo Oe which nearly won this year showing the quality of this years shortlist and longlist. Thanks to all the shadow Jury again we have shown the depth of books in translation !!

Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye

Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye

French Fiction

Original title – Ladivine

Translator – Jordan Stump

Source- Review Copy

Winstons score A- A solid book from one of the current  stars of french lit, shows how hard it is to try escape one’s past.

Well I was pleased this was on the man booker I knew another novel from this writer was in the pipeline from maclehose and the fact it got the nod on the first man booker list means we got to read it a week earlier than planned. In my score I said a star Marie Ndiaye is she has won numerous prize including the top prize for French literature the Prix Goncourt For her novel Three strong women which I reviewed a few years ago.

She was Malainka again the moment she got on the strain she found it neither a pleasure or a burden, having long since stopped noticing.

But it happened, she could tell, for no more could she answer without a second thought to Clarisse when rarely, someone she knew took that same train and called to greeted her as Clarisse, only to see her stare back in puzzled surprise, a hesitant smile on her lips, creating a mutual discomfort that the slightly flustered Clarisse never thought to dispel by simply echoing that hello, that how are you offhandedly as she could

The past and present are shown in the opening lines of the book As a Malinka now Clarisse is caught en route to mum.

 

Ladivine remind me in some ways of Three strong women as again Ndiaye has used three women as the main backbone of this story. But this time they are all in the same story and the story focus on Clarisse rivers mother and daughter in the story. She is the  daughter to Ladivine the woman of the title of the book, her poor mother who has worked hard all here life as a lowly housekeeper. Clarisse has wanted to hide her past after growing up and away from her mother and her past even her name is different  . She has married a successful man Richard Rivere  and pretends her past isn’t there. But this hiding from her husband eventually leads to the break up of her marriage and her meeting a new partner this is where we meet Her daughter Also called Ladivine like the grandmother Ladivine Rivere , that has grave worries other her mothers new boyfriend Freddy and what he really wants with her mother !

Clarisse Rivere felt herself floating back and forth on a warm, thick swell. Whose density stilled any move she might try to make. She didn’t want to move anyway, because it would hurt, it would hurt terribly, she knew, if she made attempts to change her position. She couldn’t remember if she was sitting and standing , lying or crouching, outdoor or at home, but it didn’t much matter. She had to place her faith in the mindless but confident perseverance of the heavy, dense tide now carrying her off

This passage shows the power of Ndiaye and her way to draw you into her characters worlds.

 

This is one of those family sagas that draws you in and I think it is Ndiayes writing her characters always jump of the page to me  and become so real. We all have met a Clarisse in our lives that woman who has made it but wants to runaway from her past. I was reminded of the lines Hanibal lector said in silence of the Lambs to agent starling about being one genration away from white trash . This is the sense with Clarisse even a change in name and pretending your mother is dead isn’t enough But why try to esacape your past and give your daughter your mothers name these are all questions you ask yourself. This is a great look into how we treat people in the world. It also shows how having secrets and things to hide can also draw you into more danger. A real book for anyone that Like Three strong woman or writers Like Zadie Smith or Jhumpa Lahiri both writer that capture their own worlds so well like Ndiaye does her a world of wanting to be accepted but having a past.

Have you read Ndiaye ?

The four books by Yan Lianke

 

The four books by Yan Lianke

Chinese fiction

Original title – 创建“四书

Translator – Carlos Rojas

Source – Library book

Well I have mentioned before my struggle with Modern Chinese fiction a country so large and growing huge megacities that seems to lack at the moment books capturing the Zeitgeist of these cities and the madness of the growth. That aside this is the second book by Yan Lianke I have reviewed and both have been on the longlist for a prize the Last Dreams of Ding Village was on the old IFFP longlist and this is on the First Man booker. I maybe enjoyed Dream of Ding village than my fellow jurors a few years ago so had high hopes of a book that the writer himself had been working 20 years on and took two year to write. He want to write a true account of the Mao sent people for re-education.As Tony and I say there has to be an Issue book on the longlist and this is this years.

I recommend that the Higher-ups would be well served if they carefully monitor the Musician’s capitalist behaviour and tendencies. A single ant hole can cause an entire dike to collapse.We can not permit the Musician’s petty bourgeois feminine sensibility to infect our Re-Ed district.

Part of the sections called Criminal records, which is written by The Kid as he found a french novel in her poscket.Which he will later burn.

As I said in the intro The book follows a group of  intellectuals  that have in the late fifties been sent to one of Mao’s notorious re-education class.An author , Musician ,Scholar, Theologian and Technician all at area 99. In charge of these men is a younger man called the child part of the book is made up of his observations and how he punishes the prisoners that break the rules.This is all in the part called criminal records. Then there is bits of the Authors novel and two other books that could be described as works of philosophy. What we see is how These clever people,  have to bend and try to avoid being broken in a camp run by a teen that has been given to much power and has gone slightly crazy with it the horrors he inflicts are terrible to our eyes but in his is maybe like a modern kid playing some brutal video game.

the child was delighted, and even sang a little song. He turned around and waved, saying” hurry up! Now that we have produced a hundred tons of steel, we’ll finally be able to eat meat tonight ”

And in fact, they did have meat to eat. They weighted the steel, recorded the weight in a notebook, then used an abacus to add it all up. The accountant shouted in delight.”Ah you are the first to reach a hundred tons!” He grabbed the ledger and rushed into the building whereupon the higher-up took the ledger and walked back out smiling, he shook the child’s hand and said “Congratulations, this is wonderful.You are the first to reach One hundred tons”

They make Steel which they all hate but the child drives them to make himself look good .

I felt this book was better in its overall feel than dream of ding village. Yan Lianke has tried to tackle Mao’s great leap forward in a fresh honest way. I see it took more than 20 publishers to look at the book before he found someone willing to publish this book and it is still banned in the mainland of China. The men in the camp show how easy ir is to lose ones identity just been called by a name the way the camp is run remind me of the way Stanford prison experiment showed how people easily fit into the roles of prisoner being just a number or in this case a Job and then The guard shown by The kid that shows how easily power can take over a person in control. Yan Lianke has managed to life the lid on the brutal years of the Mao regime and the way the great leap forward broke and in many ways set the country back and maybe lead the country to the events in the country of the early 90’s .I expect this to make actual shortlist as Boyd seems to be a huge Chinese lit fan.

Have you a favourite Chinese writer

 

A general theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

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A general theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Angolan fiction

Original title – Teoria Geral do Esquecimento

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – copy from translator

I was lucky that Daniel saw I was after this when it was mentioned on the longlist for the Man booker international prize. He said he had a spare copy of the us edition (extra bonus as it is an archipelago books copy so very pretty as well ) . I had looked for this on ,my library system just before the man booker but they hadn’t a copy as the book of chameleon by Jose Eduardo Agualusa an earlier book by him had won the prize and also been one I had really enjoyed. Jose Eduardo Agualusa  is not just a writer,  he has a radio show dedicate to African song and poetry and also publish books from around the Portuguese speaking world .

Ludo opened the box. Inside, looking fearfully at her, she found a little white newborn puppy.

“He’s a male. A German shepherd ” Orlando explained. “They grow quickly. This one’s an albino, rather unusual. He shouldn’t get too much sun. What are you going to call him ?”

Ludo didn’t hesitate

“Phantom!”

“Phantom?”

Orlando shrugged his bony shoulders

“Very well. Then Phantom he shall be ”

Ludo gets her dog. Now the strange thing is my Mum has a dog his name is also Phantom he is a greyhound thou I love the way books and real life cross sometimes.

A general theory of Oblivion follows one woman story but not just that the story of her home and homeland post freedom Ludo a woman decides on the eve of Angola becoming a free country to brick herself away from the outside world into her apartment. What follows is a collection of her life and what she glimpses from behind the walls . As she faces life through her collection of books her albino German shepherd dog, also her memories of a man who might have been the one Orlando and the radio the only link to the world apart from the glimpse and chance encounter she has over a number of year like a burglar that she encounters. The book is a wonderful mix of life and dramas real and imagine worlds and how someone avoids madness just in more than thirty years apart from the real world.

The days slide by as if they were liquid. I have no more notebooks to write in. I have no more pens either. I write on the walls, with pieces of charcoal, brief lines.

I save on food, on water, and on adjectives.

I think about Orlando. I hated him, at first. Then I began to see his appeal. He could be very seductive. One man and two women under the same roof- a dangerous combination.

A  short piece this captures almost her being on the edge of madness in her words as she remembers the past and Orlando .

From what I have read I think this novel is actually based on the real life person . Her notebooks Diaries and poems that where all collected after she died after spending 28 years cut off from the world. It seems Jose was given access to this body of work initially to write a radio play. That is odd as I felt when I finished this book  the small pieces that make this book up are almost like turning a radio dial through the years that Ludo had spent apart but also like gems in the dirt of african history waiting to be unearthed. I can see the mix of styles in this book can put the reader off but to me they drew me in as we see Ludo and her world and how her world starts to slowly fall apart from the lose of her dog, to having to burn her books and then the end. But what we also see through these piece is a glimpse of the past and present in Angola using both the real world and a mythical world.  This book shows why we maybe should be trying to get more books out of the Lusophone world!

Have you read any of the other books By Jose ?

A whole life by Robert Seethaler

A Whole life by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title – Ein ganzes Leben

Translator – Charlotte Collins

Source – Library book

Every year on the Old IFFP and now on the first man booker there is a book on the list that I hadn’t heard of and a writer that is new to me and this was this years book. Robert Seethaler is an austrian writer, the german wiki page says he has sight problems so went to a school for the blind. Then drama school , he is an actor as well as a scriptwriter. He has also written five novels this is his fifth novel.His first to be translated . I am pleased to see his fourth novel The tobacconist is in the pipeline to be translated.

 In 1910 a school was built in the village, and every morning, after tending to the livestock, little Egger sat with the other children, in a classroom that stank of fresh tar, learning reading, writing and arithmetic. He learned slowly and as if against a hidden inner resistance, but over time a kind of meaning began to crystallize out of the chaos of dots and dashes on the school blackboard until at last he was able to read books without pictures, which awoke in him ideas and also certain anxieties about the worlds beyond the valley.

I was reminded of the Herzog actor Bruno S a man who never is in time with the world either .

I must admit I am so pleased this was on the longlist as it may have passed me by maybe until,a german lit month. This book is the story of one mans life Andreas Egger a man who arrives and then spend the rest of his life in one small mountain valley. This is the early 20th century and the world Andreas is living in is slowly giving way to the modern world as we see through his eyes bit by bit his life but the world he lives in getting to grips with the modern world. From his arrival to work on his uncles farm where he first met the woman he loves over time Marie but this is a love that will never be.So as Andreas First build cable cars, then help electricity then the war take him away from the farm and the valley he always come back to the world he is meant to be in. As much as he tried to escape .

That was in the late fifties. It was only much later, in the summer of 1969, that Egger had a second encounter with the television – which in most households by then already constituted the central focus and primary purpose of the evening family gathering – that made a profound impression on him, albeit in an entirely different way. This time he was sitting with almost a hundred and fifty other villages in the assembly room of the new parish hall, watching two young americans walk on the moon for the first time.

A world no gone without tv or wanting to see a tv Eggger is really a man out of time in his valley .

I must admit I loved this book  it is a really pretty gem. I was reminded of  one of my favourite books Stones in a landslide Andreas life and the way he lives in the valley that is sort of out of time with the world around them remind me of the world in Stones in a landslide. I also pictured this in a way as being a lost script for a Werner  Herzog film on the other hand Andreas is a simple man like most of the classic roles in the 70’s Herzog films, a man who has the world against him in the way like the classic Bruno S films  Herzog made . A beautiful world of the valley is like quicksand slowly killing the man but not just the man but also his spirit is slowly dragged into the ground of the valley.As for man booker I feel the simple sparse nature of the narrative that as the Irish times review saaid remind that review of Stoner as for me I felt this is a better book than Stoner which I may be the one person that felt stoner was like a  afternoon film of one mans life. No egger is a character you believe in he is like a man in the background of Heidi brought to the fore.

Have you read this book ?

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